Our August Global Read was on Disruptive Kindness, a new book by author Olivia McIvor, who is the Coordinator of the Charter's Education Institute (CEI). If you weren't able to be with us for the presentation, click here to watch the recording. It was a practical and very special offering.
Have you noticed that the happier you are, the more generous you are in wanting to serve others? When you are in the spirit of service, you realize when looking around you that it is the small acts of benevolence shown and received each day that make the difference to you and others. There are rewards to being of service, both for the giver and the receiver. Not only are you being helpful to those in need, but you are also developing positive character traits and behaviors in yourself. Being of service to others allows you to see life from someone else’s perspective—their struggles and hardships, their triumphs, and strengths. It is a privilege to be a witness to another’s life. And in being one, you gain appreciation and gratitude for your own life.
Martha is a manager whose young husband developed an aggressive, terminal cancer. She had her hands and heart full, nursing him at home and caring for their two small children. Her co-workers organized themselves to provide her family with dinner every day, not for a month, but for six months. Martha’s co-workers were witnessing her hardship and struggle, and they responded. They appreciated a need greater than their own. They were inspired to draw on the positive character traits and qualities that live within us all—caring, kindness, and empathy. Martha’s story showcases how the act of service to one another in a workplace makes it a community. Because of her co-workers, Martha was able to concentrate on what was important during those precious few months before her husband’s passing.
Emanuel Swedenborg, a noted Swedish scientist, philosopher, and theologian born in the late 1600s, defined being of service as “an inner desire that makes us want to do good things even if we do not get anything in return. It is the joy of our life to do them. When we do good things from this inner desire, there is kindness in everything we think, say, want and do.” I believe Swedenborg knew what his writing was about long before any research was conducted on the effects of altruism. The University of British Columbia conducted a study to see if being of service to others can help socially anxious people. Over four weeks, these folks were given the assignment to do an act of kindness for others a minimum of six times per week. Researchers noticed that these small acts of generosity were rewarded with an increase in the test subjects' elevated positive moods, improved relationships and decreased social anxiety and social avoidance.
Another study by the University of California, Riverside aptly named Everyday Prosociality in the Workplace: The Reinforcing Benefits of Giving, Getting, and Glimpsing examined givers and receivers of kind acts, showing that both are mutually benefited by increased well-being. Givers suffered less depression and had more life and job satisfaction. Their kind acts also inspired recipients to pay-it-forward by a whopping 278% more than those not receiving them. Kindness is not only contagious, but also good for everyone.
When choosing to be of service to your local or global community, there are four ways to express yourself:
1. Time Giving of one’s time, for a long or short period. Giving time is not so much about quantity as it is about quality—being both emotionally present with another and supporting in a “hands on” way.
2. Essence Giving of one’s energy and vitality. You may have certain personal qualities in abundance–enthusiasm, hope, optimism, gratitude, empathy, patience, love, humor–and therefore want to share them. Each of these qualities brings energy to the space shared with someone when you are truly present with them.
3. Talent Giving of one’s skills and knowledge. This could mean organizing or facilitating a meeting or event, gardening, cooking, coaching a sport, educating, singing, teaching a craft or technology, or perhaps being a mentor by sharing wisdom from your life experience, or serving on a board. These natural talents come easily, giving you and others joy when you have a chance to express and share them.
4. Money Giving of one’s financial resources. The sum of money given is not as important as the spirit of the gift. You may begin by giving what you can easily afford (even spare change is helpful), and increase that amount when you are ready, willing, and able to do so.
Evaluate which ones have the most meaning for you, and where you can begin. Be authentic and be honest with yourself. Do you have time, but limited funds to give? Or do you have money, but limited time? What can you do for others with your available time or money? Is taking a more personal approach, one where you would work side by side with others, more appealing to you? Or do you prefer a more hands-off approach when you give openhandedly, but don’t meet the recipients of your generosity. All are impactful and generous acts in their own way and necessary in our complex world. Keep making a difference, one person and one kind act of service at a time.
Excerpt from Disruptive Kindness, A Bold Approach to Doing Things Differently, Author Olivia McIvor
With warm regards,